It was Monday and Phil’s day had been terrible. His job at the Hardware Giant had been grating on him for years now. He kept going out of habit more than desire. Retail was thankless and today he had been dragged back and forth across the warehouse by every manager and supervisor. He knew it was the price he had to pay for knowing too many answers.
He was walking back to his dept for the umpteenth time when he saw her. He stopped and did a double-take. It was definitely her; her red hair and curves could not be mistaken. Someone was talking to her, one of the guys from the garden section. Phil noticed there were more than a few guys out of their depts up front, trying to not look like they were staring.
“Hey Phil,” She said. Somehow while he was looking at everyone else looking at her, she had managed to notice and walk over to him. Everyone was staring at them. He could feel their eyes on him. Swallowing he tried to not be an idiot, “Hey!’ He said trying to keep his voice level. “Umm, what are you doing here?” He could not keep the confusion from his voice.
“Well,” she said, “I was hoping SOMEONE could help me find a screw for my cabinet knob. The guy over there said you worked in hardware?” Phil’s work self took over, in a calm confident voice he asked, “Do you know is it American or European?” She started fishing into her purse and said, “I dunno, but I brought the knob with me. Does that help?”
“Let’s walk over to isle eight and we can find out,” Phil said offering his arm. Thinking to himself, WHAT AM I DOING? However, she smiled and put her arm through his and the two of them walked down the main aisle heading towards eight. As the walked he rambled “There are only two types of cabinet screws an 8-32 for American and an M5 for European. It’s just a matter of figuring out which you have.”
The walk was short and as the stepped into the aisle at the front where all of the screws were kept was a testing bracket. Phil disengaged himself from her and took the knob. He guessed American first because he knew it was more common. Deftly he screwed the knob onto the bolt. It fit perfectly, and he said “Yep it’s an 8-32.” She laughed, “Oh impressive on the first try.” Her laughter was melodic and like sunshine, he felt warmed by it.
“Oh, it’s just an educated guess,” he tried to downplay it, “I do this all the time.” She smiled, and he felt a bit giddy. He looked into her eyes, those blueish-green pools, and was lost for a moment. “So…, what do I need?” She asked. He answered without thinking, “Sorry, your eyes are just beautiful… umm I mean… that is…” As he stammered, she put a hand on his arm.
“Thank you, Phil that’s very sweet. I like your eyes too,” she responded, “But the screw?” He came to his senses and felt his cheeks flush. As his embarrassment grew, he turned around and grabbed a pack off the pegs, and tried to calm himself. Turning back, he said, “These are 8-32 by 1¾, they should be the proper length and gage. If you want to be safe, I can get you a slightly longer ones or the actual cabinet screws but you may have to cut those.”
She smiled “These will be fine Phil, thank you.” As she turned to walk away, he asked, “Am I going to find out your name today?” She stopped half-turned back, “I told you, you have to guess. See you Thursday night Phil, and thank you again. He stepped out of the aisle and enjoyed watching her walk away.
The rest of the day went by unremarkable, Phil held onto the memory of her eyes and the way she walked for the rest of the day. A few guys questioned him about her, but he brushed them off saying she was just another customer. Secretly he couldn’t wait till Thursday.
Thursday night at last, Phil was full of excitement. He watched as all the regulars took their turns making their way to their usual spots. He hadn’t seen her group yet, and trivia was getting ready to start. His buddy asked, “What’s wrong Phil? You seem lost tonight.” Phil didn’t feel like explaining it all so he just simply brushed off the question and stopped staring out the window.
His team won that night, and as the shots flowed Phil politely declined and made an excuse and paid his tab and went to head home. As he was walking out the door he heard “Phil!” turning he saw a man he didn’t know but recognized as part of her trivia team. Having been caught at the door Phil stepped back inside and off to the side.
“It is you, I’m glad I caught you. I was supposed to give you this.” The man handed him a closed envelope that smelled like Lilac and Lavender. Seeing the confused look on his face the man said “She had something come up but she made me promise to give this to you tonight, glad I caught you.” The man pat Phil on the back and laughed and then walked away.
Curiosity ate at Phil, but he stepped outside and off to the corner of the patio and silently opened the envelope. In a neat fine script, she wrote – I’m sorry I could not come tonight. There was an issue in my family. I hope you had a good time tonight. I will see you next Thursday, or the next time I need help with a screw. =) – Staring at the hand-drawn smiley face Phil wondered if it was an intended double entendre or if she was just being serious. He continued to read – Just so you are not complete in the dark I’ll sign this with my first initial. I’m waiting for your guess. V – Phil folded the envelope and pocketed it.
As he waited for his Uber he wondered at her name. Thinking he had it figured out and knowing he would have to simply ask her the next time he saw her. Phil went home and set her note to him on his desk. He would read it over and over as the weekend progressed.